For a truly sublime wilderness escape, it is hard to surpass Uganda best known for its concentration of primates, including its most celebrated residents – half the world’s remaining mountain gorilla population.
Gorilla trekking is high on the bucket list trip for many travellers, and Uganda is one of several countries where it is still possible to observe gorillas in the wild. But the recent move by Rwandan authorities last year to implement a significant price hike for compulsory gorilla trekking permits from US$750 to US $1,500 per person for all visitors has added significantly to Uganda’s appeal, with Ugandan permits considerably more affordable at just US$600 per person.
One of the best places to see gorillas in Uganda is the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the country’s southwest. Bwindi is home to just over half the world’s last surviving mountain gorillas, as well as the spectacular Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp. Comprising just eight tents, it is one of the most remote and atmospheric camps in Africa. Frequently visited by gorilla families due to its unique location, it is the perfect base for a once in a lifetime encounter with mountain gorillas.
We asked Michael McCall, Sanctuary Retreat’s Director of Sales Australia, New Zealand & Asia, what guests staying at Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp can expect when embarking on a gorilla trekking trip.
“Expect a wake-up call at around 6.30am, followed by hearty breakfast, after which you will be escorted to the starting point for the gorilla trek, conveniently located just a five minute walk from Sanctuary gorilla Forest Camp.”
“This is where you will be introduced to your guides for the day and receive a safety briefing ahead of the trek. You’ll be one of just eight trekkers, and you’ll be accompanied by a Uganda Wildlife Ranger plus two armed rangers (to fend off any rogue forest elephants). There’s also a porter for each guest, who will be carrying everything you need during the trek, including water and a packed lunch (courtesy of Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp).
Time to trek.
“Every trek is different, and can last between four and 10 hours, depending on the location of the gorillas. The terrain is varied and may involve climbing up and down some quite mountainous trails. Along the way, your guide will be looking (and listening!) out for clues from the surrounding forest, including scouring the foliage for droppings, left-over food and knuckle fingerprints. The aim is to find out where the gorillas have spent the night, as they tend to only travel up to 1km per day and are likely to still be nearby the nest.
“Once you’ve located your chosen gorilla family, you’ll have around an hour to observe them in their natural habitat. And of course, the rangers are extremely knowledge and will be on hand to answer all your questions and explain gorillas’ behaviour.
“While there are certainly restrictions on how close you can get to the gorillas (10M) they can be as curious as you are, so be prepared to say hello!
“Once your magical hour has come to an end, it’s time to head back to camp where your drink of choice and a much-welcomed refreshing towel will be waiting to welcome you home.
“The laundry team are also on standby to clean boots and clothes for your next adventure. And for those with stiff muscles, a visit to the masseuse in the mini spa for a well-deserved post trek massage is a must.
“After dinner it’s time to kick back, relax and share your stories around the campfire!”
For anyone planning a gorilla trek, here is Michael’s list of essential items you should definitely not leave home – or camp, without!
- A good quality waterproof camera.
- A poncho or rain jacket as it can rain heavily, even in the dry season.
- A walking stick, which will be provided by the Camp.
- Gloves which come in useful for grabbing bushes, or sliding downhill on the seat of your pants as you never know where your trek might take you!.
- Bug repellent. DEET strength.
- A good-quality, solid – and comfy, pair of hiking boots.
- Cool, comfortable clothing in muted colours. Michael recommends suggest long sleeves, trousers, long socks and gaiters to keep bugs out and prevent scratches.
EXTENDED STAY OFFER
If you’re contemplating ticking a gorilla trek off your bucket list, take advantage of Sanctuary Retreats’ great-value extended stay offer. Normally priced from US$380 per person per night twin share, save up to 40% when you stay at one or more Sanctuary Retreats luxurious African safari camps or lodges, including Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp, for 4 nights or more.
- Stay 4 – 6 nights and save up to 30%.
- Stay 7+ nights and save up to 40%.
Terms and conditions apply.
For more information, please visit: www.sanctuaryretreats.com
About Sanctuary Retreats
Sanctuary Retreats’ collection of luxury safari lodges and river cruise ships bring the boutique experience to guests with the added promise of authenticity. Each property is completely individual in its design and operated around the philosophy of ‘Luxury, naturally’. All have the same aim: to allow guests to have a “real” experience and enjoy a more natural kind of luxury in properties that have a strong commitment to conservation and responsible tourism. The Sanctuary portfolio includes safari camps and lodges in Botswana, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, as well as river cruise ships on the Nile, the Yangtze and in Myanmar.